|Game 4 another must-win for Bruins||04.21.11 at 7:48 am ET|
MONTREAL — The truth is that every playoff game is important. The stakes are always high, and every loss brings a team one game closer to elimination. Yet if Bruins fans can’t help but place a bit more emphasis on Game 4, it wouldn’t be so irrational.
Take a look at Wednesday night, and a game that put the Rangers in a real hole. As Jason Chimera tapped the game-winning goal past Henrik Lundqvist in the second overtime, the Rangers had to have known that they blew it.
Leading 3-0 earlier in the game (sound familiar?) the Rangers let the Capitals get back into it, and three quick tallies in the third period suddenly made it 3-3.
To lose such a game (especially on your own ice) in that sort of fashion is a tough pill to swallow, but the Rangers’ No. 1 concern should be with the fact that they have spotted the Capitals a 3-1 lead in the series. A 3-1 deficit, while not insurmountable, is obviously far from ideal, and the Bruins, despite being able to return home for Game 5, should be viewing it as such. Game 4 is every bit as much a must-win as Monday’s Game 3 victory was.
Unless a team has won the first three, that’s generally the nature of Game 4. Thursday night, the rest of the series could begin to look a bit clearer. Easily the most interesting non-elimination game of a series, the Bruins can tie it with two of the three remaining games to be played at TD Garden, while the Habs are looking to put the Bruins just one loss away from failing to advance to the second round for the first time in three years.
A 3-1 deficit in a series is far from impossible to overcome (Bruins fans of course know that a 3-0 deficit in a series is not impossible to overcome thanks to the Flyers), and the Flyers weren’t the only team to do it last season. The other team to come back from being down three games to one? The very Canadiens that will host the B’s Thursday night. Two of eight teams in such a position last postseason were able to come back and win the series, though the Bruins would just as soon skip out on that discussion altogether by grabbing a road win in Game 4.
One could suggest the B’s have momentum on their side after taking Monday’s Game 3 by a 4-2 score. Claude Julien wouldn’t agree with that logic, but if it’s something that is going to motivate the Bruins at the Bell Centre Thursday, he’ll probably take it. Whether or not the B’s are feeling that momentum and whether the Habs are feeling any added pressure remains to be seen.
One thing the Bruins can expect on Thursday, aside from the possible return of Jeff Halpern to the lineup and the removal of Benoit Pouliot, is for the Habs to come out flying. Given the way they turned it on for the final 30 minutes of Game 3, the Habs have to know that if they can start better and take advantage of the early breaks (such as the two penalties the Bruins took in the first eight minutes of the game), they have a far better chance of playing the third period with a lead rather than bombarding Tim Thomas with shots in a desperate attempt to tie it late.
If the Bruins can get a full game of what Thomas brought on Thursday night, even a great 60 minutes from the Habs might not matter. This has not been the prettiest series for the Vezina shoo-in, but he dominated late in Game 3, and if he can do so for all three periods Thursday, perhaps the series will return to Boston with the home team having yet to win through four games.
The Bell Centre is a loud and hostile environment. The Bruins were able to hang on to send the fans home hanging their heads Monday, but if they want to leave Montreal Thursday knowing they will return for a Game 6, they’ll need to block out the deafening boos for Zdeno Chara and notch the ever-important Game 4 win. If they lose, it could be a hole too big to come back from. A win and they are suddenly favorites once again to win the series. They’ll need more than they brought Monday night, but if they get it, they can breathe just a bit easier.
|Brad Marchand, James Wisniewski still talking as playoffs roll on||04.20.11 at 7:59 pm ET|
MONTREAL — Brad Marchand stood straight-faced in the hallway at Whiteface Lake Placid Olympic Center Wednesday and spoke about what the playoffs mean to him, not even acknowledging how ridiculous he looked.
Marchand, the Bruins’ 22-year-old rookie wise guy, was sporting two different shoes — a white one on the right and a taped-up black one on the left — as he touched on his first taste of playoff hockey at the professional level.
“The amount of emotion and energy of the crowd, it’s so exciting and you get such an adrenaline rush every time you’re on the ice,” Marchand said. “It’s a special time of year.”
Of course, Marchand’s quirks are why he’s become a fan favorite in his rookie campaign in Boston. Off the ice, he isn’t afraid to blast a player or team (he called out Matt Cooke and essentially called the Canadiens divers at different points this season), and on the ice his mouth is just as active as his legs.
Chippy and chirpy, Marchand is the type of player referees keep an eye on, and when going against similar guys, provides great entertainment.
That’s part of what has made this year such a great year (injuries and ugliness aside) for the Bruins/Canadiens rivalry. The additions of Marchand, James Wisniewski and P.K. Subban have provided proof that when it comes to the Bruins and the Habs, the hatred is just as apparent among the players as it is with its fans.
“I know a lot of fans and media like to build it up, but we do [too]. We try to use it to our advantages,” Marchand said of chirping. “It’s a different asset, and in a seven-game series, you can use it to your advantage. Even if the other team takes one penalty, you can capitalize on that one opportunity and it can change the game. Every guy who plays that role — me and Subban and Wisniewski — whoever it is, you definitely want to use it to your advantage.”
Marchand and Wisniewski have been frequent partners in the game of trash-talk. After all, it was Marchand’s hit on Wisniewski after a whistle on Feb. 9 that led to the line-wide scrap that culminated in the world’s worst goalie fight between Tim Thomas and Carey Price. Subban also crushed Marchand in the Dec. 16 game, causing Marchand to miss some time.
Wisniewski was acquired by the Habs back in December in a deal that sent a couple of draft picks to the Islanders. Like Marchand, he is known for using lip as an asset on the ice, so despite their history from the Feb. 9 game, Marchand sees the similarities between the two players as the biggest reason as to why they’ve developed their yapping rapport.
“I don’t know if it’s been like that [just because of Feb. 9]. He’s one of those guys who likes to chirp a bit, and I’m the same way,” Marchand said. “We’ve just kind of been at each other a little bit. It’s just part of both teams’ games to kind of chirp a bit. They play that same style, and we do too.
“When you get two teams like that, there’s always a little bit more after-the-whistle stuff. Maybe at some point it’s kind of taken away from my game, so I might settle down a little.”
The regular season was an exercise in not going over the line with his extracurricular activity on the ice. He would often admit that it could be difficult to know when he was crossing it, and that Claude Julien had a stare reserved for when he did.
Now in the playoffs, Marchand hasn’t seemed to change the way he’s gone about trying to bug the opponent. He can thank the nature of the playoffs, which generally sees referees more lenient, for that.
“I think that kind of helps a little bit, but at the same time, you are always aware of what you’re trying to do out there. You don’t want to be the guy that takes that bad penalty that ends up in a bad goal. You’re always a little extra careful, but at the same time, you don’t want to change the game too much.”
|Zdeno Chara feeling better, and that’s that||04.20.11 at 3:02 pm ET|
LAKE PLACID, N.Y. — From the semi-update-that-really-isn’t-an-update department: Bruins captain Zdeno Chara fully participated in Wednesday’s practice at Whiteface Lake Placid Olympic Center. After playing in Game 3, it would appear that the illness that hospitalized Chara Friday and kept him out of Saturday’s game is far enough in the rear-view mirror that the B’s won’t have to worry about it going forward. The B’s like to keep that stuff quiet, though, so whether Chara is still playing through any discomfort remains unknown.
“I’m feeling much better,” he said Wednesday when asked for a health update. Asked whether he still needs to monitor it, he replied, “I’m feeling much better.”
Well, at least there’s good news on that front. Chara is obviously expected to play in Game 4 vs. the Habs on Thursday in Montreal.
|Bruins finish their work in Lake Placid||04.20.11 at 1:48 pm ET|
LAKE PLACID, N.Y. — The Bruins’ time in Lake Placid is done, as they will return to Montreal Wednesday in anticipation of Thursday’s Game 4 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals vs. the Canadiens. The B’s held practice Wednesday after most of the regulars were given Tuesday off.
Here’s what some of the players had to say about Lake Placid and its history:
“I already had some inkling that I wanted to be a goalie, but those Olympics and Jim Craig, that sealed the deal. That’s why I became a goalie, and my goal from age five until really probably 20 was to play in the Olympics, not the NHL. Not that I didn’t want to play in the NHL, but the main goal was the Olympics.”
“It was funny. The movie [‘Miracle’] was filmed in Vancouver in the Agrodome, where I actually started playing hockey. You come and you see this, and it’s actually two very similar rinks. It’s cool to come see this. Obviously, they were big-time underdogs, and they were able to win the Olympic Gold. It’s cool to see what it was like last year in Vancouver, and the differences between the two cities, but it’s definitely cool to see both ends of it.”
“We’ve done the retreats at the start of the year to Vermont, to kind of just get away. I think whether it’s Montreal or any other city, the playoffs are pretty, well look around. Even in Lake Placid you get a pretty good showing of media. I don’t think you ever escape anything. I think it’s just more of being relaxed in a setting like this.”
|Chris Kelly returns to Boston, will play Game 4||04.20.11 at 1:20 pm ET|
LAKE PLACID, N.Y. — Bruins center Chris Kelly did not practice with Bruins Wednesday at Whiteface Lake Placid Olympic Center, as he returned to Boston to be evaluated by team doctors. Kelly slid head-first into Carey Price’s net as a result of a shove from Scott Gomez with the B’s on a 3-on-1 in the first period of Monday’s Game 3.
“He just went back to Boston to see our doctors, just to make sure everything is OK,” coach Claude Julien said. “We anticipate him back in Montreal with us tonight.”
Kelly stayed in the game and finished the night with 14:35 of ice time. Julien said the third-line center will play Game 4 in Montreal.
“Everything is alright, according to what we know,” Julien said. “There might be a fracture, but it’s nothing that will prevent him from playing.”
|Milan Lucic and the postseason expectations of a 30-goal scorer||04.19.11 at 6:17 pm ET|
LAKE PLACID, N.Y. — The playoffs are a time when the top talent can take over a series. Teams know which guys to account for, and the big-time goal-scorers are at or near the top of the list of guys who can change a series.
When Milan Lucic scored 30 goals in the regular season, perhaps he entered that class of players expected to do big things in the postseason. Given that he also had nine points in each of the last two postseasons, Lucic also had high expectations for himself as the Eastern Conference quarterfinals began.
So far, Lucic is the only member of the Bruins’ top line without a goal in the playoffs, as David Krejci and Nathan Horton scored the B’s first two goals in Monday’s 4-2 victory in Game 3 at the Bell Centre.
Once a player reaches the 30-goal mark in the regular mark, does he suddenly feel a responsibility to be a reliable producer? Lucic said that everyone puts pressure on themselves come the postseason, but admitted Tuesday that this time around he does expect more of himself.
“For myself, I think the first two games, I put almost too much pressure on myself to go out there and score,” Lucic said Tuesday at Whiteface Lake Placid Olympic Center. “For myself, my game, if I just simplify it and just go out there and play and just focus on just straight lines and getting pucks in deep, everything tends to take care of itself.”
Lucic was a minus-1 in each of the series’ first two games. Things seemed to be getting worse Monday when he stole the puck from P.K. Subban in the neutral zone, but got barely anything on his shot on the breakaway that ensued. The Habs brought it down the ice after the play and got on the board thanks to Andrei Kostitsyn maneuvering around Zdeno Chara and beating Tim Thomas. Instead of potentially being 4-0, it was 3-1 and the crowd made its presence felt once again. Lucic’s play improved over the rest of the game, though, and given the way things seem to be trending with his linemates, coach Claude Julien hopes Lucic will begin seeing some statistical output.
“He was better last night. If his linemates are starting to roll, usually he follows up or vice versa,” Julien said. “When those guys start playing, usually the other guys catch up to them. I’m expecting him to get even better, and we’re going to need him to be better if he expect to win this series.”
|Nathan Horton learning to channel excitement as he becomes more comfortable in playoffs||04.19.11 at 5:40 pm ET|
LAKE PLACID, N.Y. — When Nathan Horton said he was excited for the playoffs, there were a couple of reasons to believe him. First of all, he’s Nathan Horton, so he’s excited about everything. Second of all, after playing six seasons in Florida, he had been chomping at the bit to get his first taste of postseason action.
So far, the excitement has been on display, but it hasn’t always been in the prettiest ways. Horton seemed to be going a million miles an hour in Game 2, playing a reckless style and only showing up on the stat sheet for a second-period roughing penalty.
Monday night, Horton saw his efforts pay off. On a heads-up play, he found Carey Price out of position after a Zdeno Chara shot missed the net and banked the puck off the back of the Montreal goaltender for his first career playoff goal. It was the second of the Bruins’ four goals in a 4-2 victory that brought them within a game of tying the series.
“It was nice. It’s always nice to contribute and help my team, but getting the win, that’s what feels good,” Horton said. “It’s nice to get back on the board in the win category.”
While it is rewarding for Horton to see that there is a payoff for his efforts (he also tied for the team lead with three shots of goal Monday — a low number for a team-high, but a team-high nonetheless), he understands that he may have been going a bit too hard at previous points in the series. Horton snapped his stick out of anger after a play in Game 2 and was later demoted to the third line for the third period. It was unclear whether his recklessness was the reason Claude Julien swapped him out for Rich Peverley, but he explained the play Tuesday at the Whiteface Lake Placid Olympic Center.
“It really wasn’t [frustration getting to me],” Horton said. “It probably looked like that, but my stick was broken on the play and I was in the corner digging for it. I was just upset because my stick was broken and I could have gotten the puck.”
While Horton doesn’t think he was getting too angry, he can recognize that he’s better when he can relax.
“I think you do want to finish your hits and you want to play hard, but there’s also a thing that you’ve got to take time and relax and play your game,” he said. “That’s a big thing.”
Just as unsurprising as Horton’s excitement is the review his small playoff sample has gotten from his linemate in Milan Lucic. The 22-year-old Lucic has long been a fan of Horton’s game, and he likes what he’s seen so far vs. the Habs. He also believes it’s going to get better.
“I think his game has gotten better as the series has gone on. I told him before, ‘You’ve just got to go in and enjoy it. It’s that time of year where you need to go out there and enjoy the experience,'” Lucic said. “It’s a first-time experience for him, so I think it’s a bit of a weight off his shoulders, being able to get his first playoff goal. I felt like we were able to play our game more last game, and we want to do whatever we can to be better going into Game 4.”
Through three playoff games, Horton has averaged 16:56 of playing time. He has a minus-2 rating and one point, which came in the form of Monday’s goal.